Hat tip: Lorraine Spencer
Indra Rios-Moore’s story begins on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, continues across the Atlantic in Denmark, but as yet has not come close to reaching a climax, or thankfully an ending. Like every good story it has had twists along the way, ups, as well as downs, joy and pain, but also sacrifice and success. If art reflects life then it is little wonder that Indra’s album, Heartland is eclecticism in the extreme…it is an album that is both intensely personal but also broad in its musical sweep. Hardly surprising given Indra’s story.
Indra, named by her mother after the Hindu warrior deity of the sky and the rain, was born to a Puerto Rican social worker, Elizabeth, and an African-American-Syrian jazz bassist, Donald Moore (his credits include, the New York Contemporary Five, Archie Shepp, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins, and Jackie McLean). Growing up in a tough neighborhood, Indra spent her formative years in an imaginary world with her mother’s extensive record collection of jazz, soul, and rock music for company.
Singing was always a private experience for Indra, but at the age of 13, her mother convinced her to audition for a place at Mannes College of Music; despite her inhibitions about her singing Indra was awarded a scholarship. Indra developed her soprano voice and during the same year that she started studying at Mannes, she attended the Village Harmony, summer camp in Northern Vermont. Her teenage years were spent in a musical parallel existence; one full of classical arias and vocalization practice and the other filled with traditional American folks tunes and old Balkan folk songs in the woods of Vermont. While working as a waitress in a Brooklyn wine bar, she met Benjamin Traerup, a Danish jazz saxophonist; three weeks later they were living together and one year after that they were married and living in Denmark. According to Indra,
“If I hadn’t been young and a little stupid I would never have moved to Denmark, but I was in love, and I still am, so it was a pragmatic choice. It took me four years to learn Danish, as it is not a language that falls naturally from an American tongue. In the end we found that creativity was in part born out of hardship.”